Leicester Tigers have grown accustomed to being involved in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at the end of the season, but they have not featured in the Twickenham finale since 2013 when they ran out 37-17 winners over Northampton Saints.
Before 2013, Tigers featured in nine consecutive finals dating back to 2005 – winning four – and flanker Tom Croft believes reaching this year’s showcase would be a momentous achievement after a tough year for the club.
Tigers have suffered a record home defeat in Europe this season – a 43-0 loss to Glasgow Warriors in January – and have dealt with departing coaches Richard Cockerill and Aaron Mauger since the turn of the year.
But Croft insists that the squad’s resolve and self-belief never wavered through the tough times as Leicester now find themselves in the driving seat for the fourth semi-final spot – they are four points clear of Bath Rugby with two Aviva Premiership Rugby matches remaining.
“It would be absolutely huge to get to the final, up until 2013 we had been in a final every single year in the past nine seasons,” said Croft, who featured in Tigers’ last final four years ago.
“In the past four years having not been there, it makes you realise how special it is to reach that final and go on to win it.
“It has been a tough old year for us with some pretty devastating results, notably in Europe. But once you get into that semi-final, anything can happen, you don’t have to be top of the league to win it.”
Despite the departures of Cockerill and Mauger, Croft is determined not to use it as an excuse for a below-par season by the Tigers.
And Croft’s side have two more Aviva Premiership encounters – against Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors – as they look to finish a frustrating season in the top-four.
“Putting aside the ins and outs of coaches, we as players can be better but we are still in the mix and have two games to stay there and then it is anyone’s game,” said Croft.
“The Aviva Premiership is as hard as it has ever been so to get to the final would be testament to our hard work and guys knuckling down.
“If we can hold on to fourth spot we hope to cause a huge upset in the semi-finals.”
— Tom Croft (@tomcroft6) April 8, 2017
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